By Mathieu Galtier.
Tripoli, 11 April 2013:
Forget Prime Minister Ali Zeidan or the . . .[restrict]President of General National Congress, Mohamed Magaryef, or the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani. The most powerful men in Libya are the 12 who belong to the Commissions for Integrity and Patriotism.
Any member of the government, any Congress member, any Libyan who has a top position in state organisations or applies for a job in the state sector has to contend with the Commission. If itdecides that someone was a supporter of the Qaddafi regime or worked closely with it, he is automatically banned from his or her jobs. The only way to contest the ban is to appeal through the courts.
These powerful men meet on a daily basis at Palace Seven inside the General National Congress buildings. The body was originally created by the National Transitional Congress (NTC) but Congress has reconfirmed its authority.
The NTC initially opted for 13 members. However, one resigned and the 12 others are still doing the job. Seven are versed in the law: four judges, among them Hilal Senussi, the president of the commission, and three lawyers. The others are businessmen, university professors at and a psychologist. The 12 are supposed to represent all components of Libyan society. There are members who are Tubu and Amazigh. It contains representatives from all parts of the country.
The Commission for Integrity and Patriotism has about 100,000 documents from the Qaddafi period, notably from the regime’s Bab Al-Azizia headquarters. Candidates for a senior posts have to fill in questionnaire with with 25 enquiries such as “Did you participate in the 17 February Revolution?”, “Were you active in revolutionary comities?”, “Did you work in an embassy?”, and the like.
A six-man team compares the answers to the documents. The commission finally discusses every individual’s file before voting. A simple majority is enough to ban, providing there is a quorum of nine members. The process for each case lasts about 21 days.
The procedure appears to be fair although some maintain that the process is not sufficiently exhaustive. “During the electoral campaign, we had 5,000 documents to check candidates’ backgrounds in ten days. It was impossible,” Senussi told the Libya Herald. As a result, documents about Congress members were given to the Commission after the election. So far following investigations, it has banned 15 of them (7.5 percent of the Congress; see list below). Senussi is proud to claim that the commission is “an open area” for citizens who have data from the previous political system.
“I was very surprised when the GNC Secretary told me the Commission had banned me. I was not even interviewed by the members. It’s like they are above everyone. It’s Libyan version of democracy”, one Congress member complained to the Libya Herald.
A Congress member who has been banned can appeal to the court, then the Supreme Court. They cannot sit in the Congress during the appeal. Right now, eight Congress members out of 15 have been definitively sacked after Supreme Court rulings in favour of the Commission’s decision.
There is, theoretically, a procedure in place to replace banned members. If they were elected as individuals, they are supposed to be replaced by the candidate who received the next highest number of votes. If elected on a party political list, they should be replaced by the next man on the list if he is a man, or the next woman if the banned Congress member is a woman. However, so far, none of the eight former deputies has been replaced.
Most of them are from south or places that are not seen as fully sympathetic to the revolution – which has made commentators ask whether the GNC wants really to replace them. Bani Walid and Ghat no longer have any representatives in the General National Congress.
The members of the Commission defend themselves from accusations of being partial. “If we have any doubts, we interview the person”, Senussi insisted. Nevertheless, members recognise the task is very difficult, since they have no specific law to refer when it comes to deciding who or who is not a former Qaddafi supporter.
“When the case is very balanced, there are the good guys and the bad ones – those who prefer not to ban and the ones who vote for a ban, even if they are not sure. During the discussions, it’s good to have the judges who can advise in an impartial way”, a member of the commission revealed to the Libya Herald. “Our commission is named Commission for Integrity and Patriotism. When we vote to disbar someone, it is means somehow he is not a patriot. It’s a very difficult decision to take”, he added.
The Commission for Integrity and Patriotism is supposed to cease to exist with the transitional period, when the new constitution comes into effect. “Our last job will be to check the past of the future president of the Republic”, Senussi explained.
But that supposes there will be a president or even a republic. Libya may yet decided to remain simply a “state”.
Members of Congrtess definitively banned:
- Salem Al Ahmar Al Hadi Ali, (Bani Walid, independent);
- Ibrahim Mohamed Eddah Mohamed, from Obari (Libyan Party for Liberty and Development);
- Abd Rabbah Yousef Bu Breg Mikael (Bayda, independent)
- Abdulqader Sidi Omar Sidi Eshaikh El-Hash (Ghat, independent)
- Mohamed Ibrahim Makhi (Ghat, independent)
- Salma Mohamed Emhemed Ekhail (Zliten, National Forces Coalition)
- Mariam Ali Ahmed Farda (Bu Sleem, Tripoli, National Forces Coalition)
- Annifishi Abdussalam Abdul Manee Abdussalam (Tarhouna, independent)
Member of Congress disbarred by the Commission for Integrity and Patriotism but who are appealing:
- Hussein Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Al-Ansari (Obari, independent)
- Abdulhamid Daw Ali Al-Khanjari (Batin Al-Jabal, independent)
- Amna Mahmoud Mohamed Takhikh (Bani Walid, independent)
- Mahmoud Abdul Aziz Milad Hassan (Bu Sleem, Tripoli, independent)
- Essenussi Erhouma Mohamed Erhouma (Sebha, Arrakeeza party)
- Mohamed Menawi Ahmed Al-Hudairi (Sebha, independent)
- Abdurrahman Al-Shater (Hay Andalus, Tripoli independent).